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New texts from the Washington State Department of Health will speed Covid exposure notifications across the state

The Department of Health began texting verification codes to every person who tests positive for Covid-19 on Monday January 11th. The goal is to help WA Notify users quickly alert fellow users know that they've been exposed.
Sample Department of Health positive Covid text. Image courtesy of Department of Health.

From a January 11, 2021, Washington State Department of Health press release.

Starting today, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) will begin texting a verification code to every person in Washington state who tests positive for COVID-19. The goal is to help WA Notify exposure notification users alert fellow users faster if they’ve been exposed.

People who test positive for COVID-19 will still receive notification from their health care provider or testing facility – that won’t change. But everyone who tests positive will now also receive a text. That text includes a link to activate a verification code within WA Notify, and anonymously alert users they may have been exposed.

People who test positive can expect to receive a text from DOH within 24 hours after we get their result. Anyone who receives a text and isn’t using WA Notify can simply disregard it.

Currently, public health provides the verification code during the case investigation process, but this should make the notification process faster.

“Adoption of exposure notification technology has been strong in Washington state, so I’m pleased we’re able to make this improvement to get verification codes to WA Notify users faster,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, Deputy Secretary for COVID-19 response.

She went on to say, “The earlier someone is notified of a possible exposure, the more quickly they can take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and potentially save lives.”

Since November 30, 2020, nearly 1.66 million people have successfully activated WA Notify, a simple, anonymous exposure notification tool that uses smartphones to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

WA Notify is available in more than 29 languages so as many Washington residents as possible can access this tool. The app uses privacy-preserving technology jointly developed by Google and Apple and works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data. Users can opt out at any time.

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